Courts Round Up

Illinois

Blago lawyer: Cops have search warrant in theft

CHICAGO (AP) ? A member of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's (blah-GOY'-uh-vich) legal team says he has been informed Chicago police have a search warrant and are looking for eight computers and a safe stolen from offices of two other lawyers in the case.

Attorney Sheldon Sorosky says he was told Saturday morning by another defense team member that police had obtained the warrant.

Police spokeswoman Laura Kubiak said she could not confirm a search warrant was executed.

Police said Friday burglars broke into the offices of Blagojevich attorney Sam Adam and his son, Samuel E. Adam, and took items that may contain information about Blagojevich's case.

Blagojevich is charged with scheming to trade or sell President Barack Obama's former U.S. Senate seat.

Oregon

Court hears case about concealed weapons records

SALEM, Ore. (AP) ? A state court is considering whether sheriffs in Oregon can block public access to information about concealed handgun permits.

The Oregon Court of Appeals heard arguments Friday in a dispute that arose after news organizations and others sought to obtain lists of people with those permits as part of the public record.

Since then, sheriffs around Oregon have moved to keep that information private. The sheriffs say public disclosure would jeopardize the personal safety of permit holders.

Open government advocates say Oregonians should have the right to check to see who is getting concealed handgun permits from local sheriffs.

Nearly 110,000 Oregonians have gotten concealed handgun licenses by undergoing background checks and firearms training.

A year ago, sheriffs around Oregon began sending letters to permit holders, asking whether they wanted their identities withheld if it is requested as an Oregon public record. Sheriffs say the response was overwhelmingly in favor of keeping that information closed.

The case heard by the appeals court Friday stemmed from the Medford Mail Tribune's request for a list of permit holders in 2007. Jackson County Sheriff Mike Winters denied the request, saying that disclosure would compromise license holders' personal security.

A lower court ruled in favor of the newspaper. Winters appealed the ruling to the state Court of Appeals.

In Friday's court arguments, Timothy Jackle, a lawyer for the newspaper, said the public interest "strongly favors" keeping the permit information open.

Benjamin Bloom, a lawyer representing the Jackson County sheriff, said people obtain the permits for personal safety reasons and don't want to be subject to being stigmatized by having it publicly disclosed that they carry a concealed handgun.

South Dakota

Committee calls for courtroom cameras plan

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) ? Cameras and other recording devices should be allowed in the state's trial courts only when the judge and all parties in a case agree, a court-appointed committee recommended Friday.

The committee, appointed by the South Dakota Supreme Court, will send its recommendations to the high court, which will have the final say on whether to allow cameras in circuit court trials and hearings.

The panel, which includes lawyers, judges and representatives of news organizations, reaffirmed its support for a tentative recommendation made in October to support a plan endorsed by the presiding circuit court judges.

A statement attached to the recommendation says a majority of the committee believes circuit court proceedings should be presumed closed to television cameras, still cameras and audio recording devices. The recommendation says a circuit court proceeding would be open to recording by news organizations only if a judge and all parties agreed at least a week before the trial.

Committee members representing news organizations submitted a minority report, recommending that a trial court proceeding be presumed open to recording devices unless a judge decides cameras would interfere with the fairness of a trial.

Watertown Public Opinion publisher Mark Roby said the majority report's recommendation, based on a Minnesota rule, is unlikely to result in many trial court proceedings open to recording devices.

"There have not been any cases except for a couple in the last 30 years in Minnesota that actually allowed cameras," Roby said.

Roby said news organizations hope the Supreme Court will reject the majority's recommendation and instead do more to open trial courts to cameras.

Tena Haraldson, The Associated Press bureau chief for South Dakota, North Dakota and Nebraska, said many people believe cameras will be allowed in circuit courtrooms. The majority report won't open many courtrooms to cameras, she said.

The Supreme Court has allowed electronic recording equipment and television and still cameras to record its oral arguments since 2001, but those devices have been prohibited in circuit courts, the trial level of the judicial system.

State Supreme Court Justice David Gilbertson, who appointed the study committee, has said cameras have caused no problems in his court's hearings.

Gilbertson talked briefly with the committee Friday, saying the high court will decide soon whether to hold a formal hearing to change the rules on cameras in trial courts. Courts have struggled with the issue, he said.

"If there was one easy way to do it, all states would have done it that way," Gilbertson said.

Circuit Judge David Gienapp of Brookings said the majority recommendation would help avoid delays in circuit court cases by preventing appeals on whether proceedings would be open.

Gienapp has said that if courts were presumed open to cameras, serial killers and others who want publicity could delay trials by filing appeals seeking to allow cameras in the courtroom. A presumption against cameras would prevent such appeals, he said.

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